Gay utopia

Jillian's first day in Portland. Photo provided.

by Jillian Drinnon
Special to The Gayly

(Part 1) I was a dorky gay girl from the beginning. When my sweet parents wanted to buy me dresses and barrettes for my unruly hair, I instead begged for my brother’s hand-me-downs. I wanted bowties!

I wanted to be just like Katherine Hepburn, and I would rather have been lifting weights than any of the traditionally “girly” activities so many young people are expected to do.

I was terrified of what my community would think when I came out. I grew up within a fervently religious homeschool group that would meet every Tuesday to read scripture and socialize the young homeschooled kids.

There, a fear of God’s wrath upon my soul grew into an untenable monster inside my heart. Between my homeschool group, a fire-and-brimstone family tree, and the everyday gauntlet run that is being an obviously gay kid in a farming town, I so yearned to “escape.” I dreamed of going to some gay utopia where I could meet a girl, adopt kids, and live a happy, no judgment life.

I had it all planned. Finally, I could run away to live my life as an out and proud illustrator. Sure, I had made some amazing friends in Oklahoma, and I would miss my family, but that wasn’t important. I was going to find my people!

All those nights of crying didn’t matter anymore. My dreams were finally taking a physical form.

A bitterly cold January wind blew me to that big city far away. It was Portland, Oregon.

I jetted to my college for orientation. Within the baroque building, a whisper crept into my mind, “What have I gotten myself into?” Before that thought could sink in deeper, I was asked to put on a name tag and write my preferred pronouns.

“Wow,” I thought. How amazing was it to even be asked that? I chatted with my new classmates for a while and was shocked when the main talking point was sexuality and queer politics. After an hour in what felt like a peculiar dream, I left with daydreams of new anime, punk bands, and artists to look up. I returned to my fancy dormitory to bookmark my first day.

Days flew, and I was gobsmacked by how gay everything was! Pride flags were hung everywhere, and no matter where I went, I spotted couples; gay couples, holding hands and doing the usual PDA sort of stuff.

As a young person searching for romance, I was regularly reminded that apparently plenty of gay folks managed to find each other. I had hope of finding love. A sort of comfort set in and I began to think, “this is where I am supposed to be.”

Weeks passed, and I was starting to remember the streets and train routes. Of course, I was homesick, but that was expected. The rows of shivering homeless people broke my heart, but how couldn’t it? Lots of little things kept pushing me further down into a state of confusion.

Back home in Oklahoma, I was a funky, punk, kid who was fun at parties. In Portland, I was a “good noodle” as many, many people called me. To them, I was strange for turning in all my classwork on time, and strangest of all, I didn’t talk about my sexuality hardly ever. Of course, I was openly gay, but the peculiarity came when I didn’t talk about all the gay things I was or wasn’t doing.

I soon learned that I needed to watch the newest gay shows. I always had to know about the relevant, gay memes, and most importantly, I had to talk about gay sex a lot.

Was I not gay enough because I didn’t want to talk about a stranger’s fetishes? Was the facade of my dream world cracking?

End of Part 1. Want to find out this writer’s true gay utopia? Read “Gay utopia” Part 2 in the May issue of The Gayly or online in mid-May.

Copyright The Gayly 4/14/2019 @ 10:22 a.m. CST.